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Milwaukee Won’t Enforce Residency Rule -- Just Yet

Yankee Hill neighborhood in Milwaukee

The City of Milwaukee has clarified its position on whether its employees must live within city limits, at this time.

The City issued a statement Friday in response to last month’s Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision, which ruled that Milwaukee can require its workers to live in the city – despite the fact that the budget Gov. Scott Walker approved two years ago ended the mandate. The police union, which opposes the residency requirement, has asked the state Supreme Court to take up the decision.

The City's statement reads, in part:

The City of Milwaukee is committed to continuing its residency rule. However, in consideration of uncertainty during the time it may take to know whether the Wisconsin Supreme Court will review the case, the City has agreed to continue to suspend enforcement of the ordinance. The City will fully enforce the ordinance once the Supreme Court either refuses review or affirms the Court of Appeals’ well-founded opinion. Employees who disregard the ordinance do so at their own risk.

In 2013, Gov. Walker said he wanted to end the residency requirement because he felt “strongly that people should have the freedom to choose.” Walker referred to the Milwaukee mandate as a wall designed to keep in employees. He insisted it was not key to the city’s success.

“You make a great city by having good schools, by having safe environments and neighborhoods and ultimately by a better business climate,” Walker said.

Last month, after the Court of Appeals decision, Mayor Tom Barrett defended the residency rule, which was put into place more than 75 years ago.

“We will give you a job with good pay, good health care benefits a good retirement plan, and in exchange we want you to be part of this community. And it’s not just because of a ‘feel good’ nature, but for law enforcement, for Department of Public Works, for first responders, if someone’s living 60 miles away it makes it difficult if you’ve got a snowstorm or you have a fire, for people to get back to work quickly,” Barrett said.

Ann-Elise is WUWM's news director.
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